Just before I joined Stock Building Supply, I attended a meeting with a contractor, an installed sales manager and the outside sales rep who services the contractor. We were sitting in a model home in a nice development that the builder was working on. The four of us and the builder's production manager were discussing plans for the next phase of construction.

This was an important meeting. The builder was excited to open the second phase of construction and wanted proposals on all exterior applications: housewrap, windows, doors, siding, soffit and fascia. We had gathered to discuss the particulars of each of his model homes, ensure that all the details were covered and thoroughly understood, and begin the process that would lead to preparing bids.

Thus it was that we had plans on the table, were taking detailed notes, and were an hour deep into a full-tilt five-way conversation. That's when a man walked into the model home, looked around and walked up to the table. The builder didn't acknowledge the newcomer, as his back was to the doorway. The visitor was dressed as a typical contractor: jeans, boots, and golf-shirt, with a ball cap on the back of his head.

The stranger looked at our group and–without introducing himself or asking who was present–dropped a folder on the table.

"I sell insulation and fireplaces," the interloper announced. "Looks like you're going to need some of these. Hope you'll consider me when you do." He then turned and left the room, walked back to his truck and drove away.

Without missing a beat, the builder picked up the folder and tossed it into the garbage. Never said a word, never acknowledged the presence of anyone else; he simply went on with our original discussion.

I was amazed on several levels. How many "sales calls" will that subcontractor make in a day? Imagine him driving from site to site, acting in much the same way. How much gasoline will he use and how much frustration will he develop, along with heartburn and disappointment? How many of these pseudo sales calls will our builder friend have to endure during the course of a day, week or month? Calls where a self-proclaimed salesperson performs a totally inadequate job of presenting even the most minor benefit, asking any qualifying questions at all, or even showing a minimum amount of courtesy?

The unwelcome visitor was a sales rep for an insulation company who also sells fireplaces. I would assume that the business has other products as well, and it might even do a professional job with the installation. But it won't ever get a chance to demonstrate this to our builder friend because of the lack of professional skills shown by the company's salesman.

How many of you have done the same thing? Anybody want to admit it–admit that they have left the office in the morning, driven around, found a job site and simply dropped a business card on the table while asking, "Wanna buy some sticks?" I really hope no one reading this is guilty of that crime.

The price of professionalism is just that–a price that calls for ample efforts to win ample rewards.

Mike Butts is director of installed sales at Stock Building Supply. 517.256.9337. E-mail:jmichaelbutts@gmail.com